Advent 2019

34 ponderings inspired by the festive season of 2019. A personal Advent starting on December the 1st, the first chocolate of an advent calendar ending with the last day of Yule.

Advent 1

Christmas Scene at Jacka Bakery

This morning was sunny and beautiful. The sun was out and the temperature was down, time for a long walk and a hot coffee as a reward.

Jacka Bakery is the oldest working Bakery in the country. Coffee here was our half-way, warm-up and sit-down reward.

theoldmortuary wrote a blog a while ago that mentioned an earlier visit to Jacka.
https://theoldmortuary.design/2017/05/12/what-a-difference-the-sun-makes/

Advent 2

Tree of memory Xavi Bové Studio and Onionlab

https://illuminate-festival.co.uk/

Illuminate 2019

Iluminate 2019’s first night was scheduled for United States Thanksgiving Day, the 4th Thursday of November. It was also the first public event linked to Mayflower 400 in Plymouth.This was the the third Illuminate event to be hosted in the City. The previous two were held exclusively at the Royal William Yard. 2019 saw the action shared with Mount Edgcumbe and the Barbican. I am interested to see if this was considered a successful idea.

Illuminate is a festival of light based art installations, projections and interactive displays. Local, national and International artists take part.

Regeneration Nathaniel J Hall

theoldmortuary made two evening dog walks more interesting by visiting two of the locations. The Royal William Yard was a great experience. The Barbican less so.

Atmosphere is a magic ingredient, organisers do their very best to create by delivering spectacular content and experience, it’s the publics reaction to the artwork that makes the fizz and energy of a successful event. The buzz at the Royal William Yard on Thursday must have been everything the organisers wanted. Plenty of happy people enjoying contemporary art in dry winter weather. Lovely street food, great coffee and live music.

The Art was spectacular in every way.

Diva Thomas Voillaume Apache Creation with Jeremy Oury for Video Mapping

Friday night saw us walking the dogs to the Barbican. Curiously quiet for a Friday, there were almost more event volunteers than art lovers.The harbour in front of The Ship pub was the location of a beautiful installation.called Baitball by The Media Workshop. A video projection onto mist.

Sardines swirled and shapeshifted in the mist just above the surface of the water. The work was mesmerising.

Not so great was Her Voices also by The Media Workshop. Located in the Elizabethan Garden.

The installation was broken in some way and no effort was being made to make a repair. Disappointing in many respects particularly as it must have been one of the premier locations, of the festival. Not really good enough.

Curio- Trigger Stuff by Savinder Bual and Elena Blanco was intriguing . A series of doors with letter boxes that allowed the viewer to peep into tiny interiors that showed artifacts that hinted at local people’s ideas of home. I wasn’t convinced that this was in any way more interesting by being illuminated but maybe the complete lack of atmosphere on the Barbican had jaded my artistic edge.

On a positive note for the Barbican, Sunday night saw the Christmas lights turned on in addition to Illuminate . I’m sure the magic more than made up for Friday.

Advent 3

December Sunset at Churchtown Farm. This works in two ways , it is a brilliant December image for Advent and the location fits nicely into the Memorial Bench category. This bench is not the one that inspired my memorial bench writings but it is the one that I see the most often as it’s on my regular dog walk. It often gets a mention on the Churchtown Farm Facebook page, because people get such peace and solace from perching here. It is placed overlooking a beautifully peaceful stretch of the River Lynher. Jupiter Point, part of HMS Raleigh is the silver twinkles at the far left of this image. Beyond the Navy the water here is pretty quiet, troubled only by sailing boats and the occasional gig from Caradon Pilot Gig Club based in Saltash.

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This bench is unusual because it is so solid and the commemoration is carved into the wood, it’s solidity increases the sense of its permanence in the landscape. The location is so beautiful and the seat so comfy it’s hard to walk past . Not necessarily efficient dog walking but perfect for pondering. It’s what3words location is react.sometime.breeze

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Advent 4

Mistletoe at Cotehele

Mistletoe looking glossy during last weeks visit to Cotehele.

Culturally it’s a busy plant, there’s the well known kissing tradition, beloved by Hollywood and the music industry.

#metoo has illuminated that to be a less benign and darker force at times. Especially in the workplace.

Pre- Christians, and Ancient Greeks tagged Mistletoe with the responsibility of representing male fertility. The Celts took this to a whole new level and claimed Mistletoe was the actual semen of a chap called Taranis. Surely that would smart* a bit.

It takes the Romans to give Mistletoe a more comfortable festive responsibility . As part of Saturnalia it was hung around doorways and thresholds to protect those within and represented Peace, Love and Understanding.

*smart – verb, to feel or cause a sharp burning pain in part of the body.

More plant based Cotehele stuff,
https://theoldmortuary.design/2019/11/29/cotehele-garland/

Advent 5

This time last year we were wandering the streets of Hong Kong looking for the location of the military hospital that Hannah was born in. On the way we walked streets with amazing neon signs.

Like so much in Hong Kong, a year has seen a lot of changes. Beyond the well publicised protests, there are other alterations to Hong Kong’s heritage afoot. Neons, in particular the ones that hang over roads are being removed. Health and safety and energy economics are the reasons given. Hong Kongers see it as another sign of Hong Kong culture being crushed by China. Their loss will alter the night- life street- life scene massively.

© Juliet Cornell Watercolour

Advent 6

/Why an advent blog? Actually why not, theoldmortuary blog is a flimsy insubstantial thing. A daily pondering of no real significance, so why not ponder productively whilst the evenings are long.

Advent is not solely the possession of the Christian Church, like many things considered to be Christian, it was a pagan tradition beforehand. Advent in the Northern hemisphere belongs to December when the days are short and the weather intemperate. Some days feel as if almost nothing is achieved within daylight hours. The long dark evenings are good for cosy activities like reading or indeed pondering. Advent ponders are whatever crops up in my day that makes me think…
Today it’s baubles.

These amazing baubles hang in a local garden centre. These particular ones have travelled from Slovakia, others from the Ukraine, but most come from China and in particular Yiwu.

This article from The Guardian in 2014 explains their production.
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/dec/19/santas-real-workshop-the-town-in-china-that-makes-the-worlds-christmas-decorations

Gisella Graham is a bauble designer and wholesaler. theoldmortuary has loads of her baubles, some from the Garden Centre and some from Liberty, London. The ones we mostly buy are London inspired, they also make great gifts for our family and friends abroad. I’m unsure where I thought baubles came from, but it wasn’t factories in China or wholesalers near the Elephant and Castle. Like Yiwu, Elephant and Castle is not a remotely Christmassy location. I only mention this because I once got lost nearby and discovered this bauble Mecca. Just as in China, normal people work there. No Elves. Shame.
https://www.giselagraham.co.uk/contact-us/

I’m sure the baubles of my youth came from Poland and Hong Kong. They were fine and fragile. None have survived my many moves. These random thoughts have inspired me to research the history of the bauble.

Germany was the home of the first blown glass bauble in the 16th Century. Hans Grenier produced glass beads and tin figures in the small town of Lauscha. In the next two centuries, the growing popularity and commercial success of his original decorations inspired other glass blowers in the town to make baubles. By 1880, F W Woolworth had discovered the German baubles of Lauscha and started to import them, despite bauble manufacturing beginning in New York in 1870. This German business grew and flourished until the end of World War Two.

After WW2, the Lauscha bauble factories became state owned and production ceased. However, after the Berlin wall came down most of the companies re-established themselves as private companies. They positioned themselves as high-end manufacturers, not competing with mass production and continue to produce baubles of very high quality.

Meanwhile, to fill the gap created by the closure of the Lauscha producers after WW2, mass production of baubles started, in the second half of the twentieth century, in Poland, other Eastern European countries, Mexico and China.

My recollection of Hong Kong baubles proved to be correct. During the Korean war, there was an American embargo on China. Hong Kong quickly increased its manufacturing capability not only to produce the products it would normally import from China but also produced enough goods to export to the rest of the world replacing China’s output. Glass blowing had been established in Hong Kong in the 1920’s, so inevitably baubles became another mass produced item that Hong Kong could export all over the world.

Bauble pondering, a journey of changing destinations, sometimes caused by war. Fascinating.

Advent 7

Mr.Robin, Britain’s National Bird and Christmas favourite.

In June 2015 Phillip Hoare described the Robin as ” Brutish,ruthless and ready to ruck.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/11/british-national-bird-robin-murderous-bully?CMP=share_btn_link

Stuck, as we are in Britain, with a General Election in the run up to Christmas it is hard not to see the Robins characteristics in some of our politicians. Just like the Robin they will pose innocently over the Christmas period hoping that none of us remember what they are really like and who they harmed to be there.

Advent 8

Some days ‘popping’ into town takes a bit longer than planned.
https://www.santasonabike.org.uk/

Hundreds of Santas rode into town at 1pm. Raising money for Little Harbour Children’s Hospice .
https://www.chsw.org.uk/our-care/our-hospices/little-harbour

The town, already closed to traffic for a winter fete, was soon bursting with bikers in red, astride throbbing engines with fake fur on their faces.

Saturdays are never normally this vivid in South East Cornwall.

Advent 9

The Myth of Dionysus sculpture at the Eden project. by Tim Shaw

http://www.timshawsculptor.com/

Illuminated during the Winter Festival the sculpture looks all the more like late career Dionysus. Less the God of vegetation and more party boy drinking the fermented juices of the fruits of the vine. Appropriate really for Christmas when work parties frequently turn into Bacchanalian feasts

The Dionysian myths explore the truth of human nature that beneath the veneer of everyday life there lies dark and powerful forces of unpredictable magnitude. Also not dissimilar to the Christmas ‘work do’ .

https://www.greek-gods.org/olympian-gods/dionysus.php

Many of the plants at Eden also have nightclub glamour during the Winter festival, leaning together like tipsy colleagues in the spotlight.

The Winter Festival runs until 30th December. It’s safer than the work Christmas party.
https://www.edenproject.com/

Advent 10

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December night and the Cornish year-round bauble.

Eden project rose out of Bodelva Quarry , near St Austell in Cornwall, around the Millenium. A fantasmical dream of one man, Tim Smit, brought to reality by architect Nicholas Grimshaw, structural engineer Antony Hunt and constructors McAlpine.

https://www.edenproject.com/

It opened to the public in March 2001, 18 years on it is settled into the Cornish landscape and psyche. As with any big new development there have been rubs and chafes but plenty of good news too. Eden has been showing significant profits since 2012.

The Eden effect on Cornwall has been immense, by 2009 it had brought £805m into the local economy.

With a ‘locals’ pass Eden has become a year round destination for theoldmortuary. We can avoid the busy tourist-heavy days and use the outdoor spaces for dog walks and gardening inspiration. At Christmas time we use the shops to buy environmentally friendly gifts that are often locally produced. Walking the cool biomes during the late-opening evenings is a wonder of plant architecture and illumination. As ever with an oldmortuary outing there is always coffee and cake, and on this occasion a kangaroo too.

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